Perspectives: Max Richter Ensemble – National Concert Hall, Dublin, 29th May – Live Review by Killian Laher
Anybody foregoing the delights of Bruce Springsteen in Croke Park for the more salubrious surrounds of the National Concert Hall was in for an intriguing evening for the visit of the Max Richter Ensemble. One of the most prolific composers around, Richter is a man who doesn’t sit still, but is also one of the finest composers in the neo-classical/ambient sphere.
The first half of the performance consisted of a straight run through of The Blue Notebook, an album written against the backdrop of the Iraq war. “Run through” indeed – with a string quintet punctuated by Richter’s keyboards, programmed percussion and general ambient hiss, the rather sparse music filled the grand old room with the soaring On The Nature of Daylight. The spoken word passages were delivered by Sarah Sutcliffe, who struggled with microphone issues but it didn’t detract from the music, which was exquisite. It was clear the musicians were as immersed in the music as Max Richter was, every nuance and detail was rendered perfectly.
After the startling crescendo of The Trees, featuring the entire ensemble playing in unison, there followed an interval before the second part of the evening, a 90 minute performance of last year’s “roadblock from the information super highway” Sleep. A more tranquil set than The Blue Notebooks, each piece took its time to unfurl, several minutes elapsed before Richter’s keyboards were joined by strings oozing glacially through the slow, deliberate chord patterns. Path 5 introduced Grace Davidson’s extraordinary spinetingling soprano, one of the highlights of a pretty special night, cropping up again later on Dream 8. Some members of the audience adopted the title of the set almost literally, heads nodding as if in an almost dream-like state.
In truth, attempts to describe a performance like this through words are somewhat futile. The night was more about sitting back and letting the music wash over you, transporting you to a kind of blissed-out state or any other superlatives one cares to imagine.